Category Archives: Pointe Michel church



Text and photograph by Bernard Lauwyck

The renovation works at the National Shrine in Pointe Michel are now completed and the parishioners moved back to their on September 2014, after 7 months of worshipping in the community centre.

The renovation was initiated by Monsignor Reginald Lafleur in 2009 with the upgrading of the sanctuary and the enhancing of the shrine of Our Lady.  I was proud to be involved in the conception, planning and execution of this project which was completed in 2010.  Additional Red Cedar panelling was done in 2012.  The roof and ceiling renovation works were started this January by present Parish Priest Fr. Peter Wamutitu .

The St. Luke’s church in Pointe Michel was declared The National Shrine, dedicated to our Lady of La Salette, by Bishop Arnold Boghaert in 1983.  A National Shrine should be a worthy and exemplary space of worship and a centre of devotion and prayer of genuine religious intensity.

The devotion to Our Lady of La Salette in Dominica goes back to early February 1872, when Rev. Desiré Clément Ardois  returned from France with a beautiful statue of Our Lady as she appeared to the two little shepherd children, Maximin and Mélanie on September 19, 1846 in La Salette in France. As he was the parish priest of Pointe Michel, he had a small side chapel added to the parish church where he exposed the statue to the veneration of the faithful.

This chapel was blessed together with the statue on December 12,1889.  The Ecclesiastical Bulletin of Roseau reported that in 1873 and 1874 an immense number of faithful found their way to St. Luke’s from every quarter of Dominica and since then, year after year, the shrine has been visited by pious pilgrims on the 19th  September.

After the pilgrimage in 1875, Fr. Ardois was so exhausted that he suddenly collapsed and died a few days later. He was buried at the foot of the Altar of Our Lady of La Salette in the Pointe Michel church (see memorial plaque in wall).

To illustrate the magnitude and vibrancy of the pilgrimage to Pointe Michel in the past, I am quoting some testimony:

“Seldom has been witnesses in Dominica as wonderful a manifestation of faith as the feast of our Lady of La Salette, celebrated on Wednesday , the 19th of September ” 1923.

“From 3 am large crowds of faithful flocked from all parts of the island to the shrine of Pointe Michel, to pay homage to Our Heavenly Queen.”

Tuesday September 19, 1922:  “The good people of Pointe Michel had vied with each other to make the village look gay and festive for the unique occasion. Arches with inscription in honour of Our Lady of La Salette were erected from one end of the village to the other, whilst flags, buntings, flowers and evergreens were conspicuous all along the road and in front of nearly every house…the interior of the church, especially the Sanctuary, looked gorgeous and glittering. The chapel of Our Lady surpassed all the rest in splendour”.

“at 3.30 in the morning, the first pilgrims arrived, soon to be followed by hundreds upon hundreds until the spacious church had become altogether too small to hold them all. The bulk of the Roseau pilgrims left the Cathedral at 5 am in procession and arrived at Pointe Michel at 6.15.   On reaching the borders of the village they were received and cordially welcomed by the hospitable people of that parish and conducted in procession to the church.”

The day long celebrations included a procession around the village in the afternoon : “ then started the procession which, but for the almost unbearable heat, was more splendid than ever… the statue of Our Lady of La Salette, was carried by four young maidens and surrounded by a host of children, all dressed in immaculate white.   His Lordship the Bishop and the clergy walked behind the statue, and then followed the interminable rows first of women, then men. It was not until 4 pm that the procession was back in the church.”

One year (1923) the bishop recorded more than 6000 pilgrims. A temporary pavilion had to be erected to accommodate all the pilgrims.

Those were glorious days.

Progress report on the National Shrine in Pointe Michel

view inside uncovered Pointe Michel church on January 30, 2014

view inside uncovered Pointe Michel church on January 30, 2014

Pointe Michel church uncovered by January 31, 2014

Pointe Michel church uncovered by January 31, 2014

The uncovering and inspection work on the roof of the Pointe Michel church is almost complete. As expected quite a lot of timber has to be changed.

Engineers Wendell Lawrence, Kendall Johnson and Bernard Lauwyck performed an inspection of the existing roof today and found it weak in several areas.

Mr. Stevenson JOSEPH the contractor will have to do additional work such as bolting down, welding, casting of roof beams, etc.

To be continued.

The renovated SANCTUARY of The National Shrine of Dominica

SANCTUARY of the National Shrine

BEFORE THE RENOVATION  the sanctuary Pointe Michel in 2006

One of my projects which I enjoyed very much doing was the upgrading of the liturgical space at the National Shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of LA SALETTE, in Pointe Michel.

It posed unique challenges among others the preparing  of a concept and design, planning the proposed works in different manageable phases ,  and promoting the project.

Monsignor Reginald La Fleur, the parish priest,  was of the opinion that fundraising for the renovation of the church was bogged down as people did not see anything happening after many years of raising money.  He felt that the roof renovation works should be preceded by some works of enhancement and beauty which would re-energize the fundraising for the necessary roof works.   Today, three years later, his vision bore fruits as the roof renovation works are about to start.Dominica's National Shrine in 2006 before the renovation work

Step 1: working with the “LIVING STONES OF THE CHURCH”:

The parishioners had to be consulted and motivated. They had to “seen” in their minds what was proposed and understand why it was proposed.

I started off with a PowerPoint presentation in March 2009 to provide a visual guideline for the proposed renovation works.  The presentation was based on the latest liturgical guidelines and aimed to inspire and open minds to beautiful, yet meaningful and religious symbolic improvements.

The following points were presented in the PowerPoint presentation:

  • Bishop Arnold Boghaert designated Pointe Michel church in 1983 as the National Shrine of Dominica, dedicated to Our Lady of La Salette.
  • The 1983 Code of Canon Law ( 1230-1234) outlines the requirements for shrines.
  • The National Shrine should be centre of devotion and prayer, of genuine religious intensity !
  • Norms regarding a National Shrine state that the shrine should be easily accessible. This means for our shrine that a ramp needs to be constructed.
  • The Norms also require that the shrine is a place that will promote the faith of pilgrims.
  • A National Shrine should be a worthy and exemplary space for Liturgy.
  • Noble simplicity is one of the criteria for National Shrines
  • The importance of a beautiful sanctuary with the Altar as focal point: this can be achieved by upgrading the floor, wall and ceiling finishes. Also by manufacturing exquisite furnishings such as :


The AMBO: the Place of the Word: a dignified place to proclaim the Word of God.

The presider’s or celebrant’s CHAIR as he represents Christ presiding over the liturgy

The Reservation or Tabernacle should have a special place in this church

Highlighting the shrine of Our Lady of La Salette by colouring the statues of

Our Lady   and the two children.

  • Install conduits to hide all microphone lines.

The congregation decided to start with the Sanctuary: local timber panelling and ceramic floor tiles. 

Step 2: design and choice of materials

To find the right tiles for the sanctuary I had to make three trips to Guadeloupe, where the choice of ceramic tiles is enormous.  I finally settle on a tile 20” x 20” looking like white marble but not expensive as marble.

Parishioners got the Forestry Division to provide them with local Red Cedar boards. These were still wet and had to be dried for at least 6 months before they could use.

In the mean time a layout for the floor tiles was designed by my office and the religious symbol in the Red Cedar panelling: the quatrefoil.

Research on Our Lady of la Salette gave us the colours of the statue of Or Lady and the two children. The flowers at Our Lady’s feet brought the whole ensemble to life.FEAST of LA SALETTE Sept 2010

Step 3 : the construction work started

With the installation of the conduits and cement screed for the floor tiles, placing of the floor tiles, preparing and installation of the varnished Red Cedar panelling.

Aug 2010 159New Red Cedar panelling and ceramci floor tiles Pointe Michel

The sanctuary was painted, new lights installed. The final touch was a new Red Cedar Ambo.AMBO  Sept 2010 139





Bishop Gabriel Malzaire celebrated the feast of Our Lady of La Salette in the newly renovated sanctuary.

The two side chapels were panelled at a later date.FEAST OF LA SALETTE P1030718Feast of Our Lady of La Salete